According to a recent Pew Research Study, America is moving away from Christianity. Fewer people pray or see religion as being something important in their lives. Many believe that America is no longer a Christian Nation. Polarizing political views further divide our country.
In this episode of Finish Strong, Brent Simpson, Lead Pastor of Arise Church in Brandon, Florida examines these disturbing trends. He explains that Christians need to adopt a missionary’s approach to sharing their faith.
Tune into this episode and discover how we can turn America back to the True God.
Fearless Faith Website
Brent Simpson Links
Arise Apologetics Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ariseapologetics/
Church website: myarisechurch.com
Arise YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ARISEChurchTV
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Fearless Faith Website
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America seems to be moving away from an overwhelmingly Christian population. According to a new Pew Research study in 2007, almost eight out of 10 US adults identified as Christian. However, since then the percentage has steadily fallen to only 63%. In 2021. This decline has led to fewer people saying that they actually pray daily, or see religion as being important in their lives. And those who say they pray every day that has dropped from 58% in 2007, to 45% in 2021. But here's the statistic that really captured my attention. Those who say they seldom or never pray, has risen from 18% in 2007, to 32% and 2021. That's almost a third of our population. Again, that's from the most recent Pew research study. My name is Dan Wheeler, I'm your host for finished strong. We're going to discuss this trend in our country with a very special guest, who also pastors a large church in Florida. We'll introduce him in a moment. But first I'm joined by Brian Rowland and Terry Steen, the co founders of fearless faith ministry guys, do these statistics surpriseBrian Roland:
you completely. I gotta tell you, I just noticed this morning that another pew came out. And it said that by 2070, only 35% of the country will be Christians that we're going to be in the minority by then. And that just astounds me because it's just it's continuing from the early 90s. Just to just to go downhill. And of course, a number of things have happened between now and then with with the Gulf War and COVID. Net, but everything just continues to drop off and drop off. And I'm sure this is biblical in some way, which I'll discuss today. With Pastor Ron.Dan Wheeler:
Yeah, our guest is a Pastor Brian Simpson. He and his wife ADA are the lead pastors of arise church and Brandon, Florida. It is a growing church. It is a vibrant church. He holds a mass a bachelor of arts degree in apologetics from Trinity seminary, a Master of Arts, from Southeastern University and ministerial leadership, and he's completing a doctorate in leadership from Liberty University. I also should add, he's an accomplished guitar player and quite a vocalist. Pastor Brunt I tell you, I was impressed with your your singing voice in your you played the guitar one Sunday. Very impressive.Brent Simpson:
Yeah. Danna in another lifetime ago, I thought I was a rock star. And I traveled I did that thing that's been so long ago. Now. I mean, I had hair back then.Dan Wheeler:
It's funny. We all did. Brian and I both have played in bands. And over the years. But you know, you heard the statistics. Pastor, and do you feel we are moving away from our Christian roots in America at kind of an alarming pace here?Brent Simpson:
Oh, yeah. I mean, we're cultural anthropologists will refer to different periods of time. And there's different cultures first, culture, second culture, Third Culture. First culture being kind of a time before Christianity. It was a a time, highly spiritual, but there was no knowledge of Christ, you kind of feared God, every tribe had their own version of what God was. And then the second culture comes in, which is Christianity, which has really changed the world for the last 2000 years. And that culture set itself against first culture and tried to eradicate, you know, the barbarians of the world, so to speak. And, and that's what happens during these eras where it shifts. And then we went from second culture, and we are beginning and figuring out this, what Mark Sayers would call a gray zone as we step into a post Christian America. And, and that's what we're seeing all around us right now. And it's really a question of, of how we will move forward, apart from Christ at the same time, and, and maybe we'll get to this in the episode, but I do think there's some optimism out there as well with it. It's always darkest before dawn, right?Dan Wheeler:
Yeah, absolutely. I see Terry has rejoined us, Terry, do you have a question for Pastor?Terry Steen:
Oh, yeah. It's great to have you back. Pastor Brent. Sure. Appreciate your insights. And I was wondering about what do you feel the main factors were that are contributing to this incredible shift in Christianity today? It's something unprecedented, isn't it?Brent Simpson:
Well, no, not in the United States. If you take a little bit bigger of a global view, what you will see is across the West, we've been moving away from Christianity for quite some time. If our listeners want to look at it, Leslie newbiggin, has written extensively about this. He's passed away now but cross Europe, and that Leslie newbiggin actually went to India as a missionary, and came back after many years on the mission field back into the UK where he was from and realized that the UK he was from is more of a mission ground than where he went to India. Now that was that was, I guess back in the 80s at that point. But so if you follow the global picture, the West has been walking away from Christianity much longer than the United States. Now we're kind of the last domino to fall, but even even look at our neighbors to the north and Canada, and you can see where we're going. It's going that direction. And, and so yeah, it's a it's a, it's a massive shift that's happening. And it's really secular humanism, is becoming the new religion, which has its own way of doing things. And if you guys want to talk about that we can but help make sense of what's happening in this world.Brian Roland:
Faster. We as Christians, how can we help turn back our country? So the Lord?Brent Simpson:
Yeah, well, I guess this is where there's an optimistic part of this, because the world goes through shifts every so many years, and people will argue it's every 50 years, every 70 years, there's different arguments for that. But the world definitely goes through global shifts, and what never shifts, what never actually changes is what they call the spirituality of man. Humans are naturally spiritual creatures. In fact, sometimes when I talk to atheists, I surprise them with this. But humans naturally believe in God, from the time you're born, you naturally cross every culture of the world, you have a belief in God, it seems to be that God put it in you. But you have a belief in God, and you have to be talked out of God at some point in your life in order to change that belief. Well, oftentimes, when you get into a secular society, you might change your belief about God. So you're no longer Christian, but you are still what this word they use spiritual. And so people are still very spiritually minded. I mean, look at the Harry Potter world that we live in the, the all the movies, I mean, two of the two of the Marvel comic book heroes right now are both a witch and a warlock, right? We are naturally very spiritual people. All it is, is we've walked away from our Christian roots. And so because we are spiritual, I think there's always an open door for God to move. It's not like human nature has changed. It's just the worldview of society has changed. And so I think there's always room for optimism. I think on top of that, and even greater optimism is that is that revival tends to come out of crisis, whenever there's some sort of difficulty. Even in our personal lives. It's either a difficulty or a transition of some sort, that usually brings us back to Christ, some type of stressor. And so you walk away from Christ, and then your child gets sick, you find yourself coming back to church. You may have never known Christ, but you go through a hard time in life, and you start looking upward for something to answer. Well, here's the positive thing, unless our listeners have been listened, living under a rock, American in store for some hard times coming, you know, and I don't celebrate that. But I do say, it's an incredible opportunity for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached and taught all over again. And what we're seeing with the generation that's coming up is the millennial generation kind of walked away from God, Gen X, a little bit millennials that kind of walked away from God. But the the Gen Y and Gen a that's coming up right now, what they talk about is that they never had God in the first place. They don't have anything to walk away from. So they're kind of a blank slate. It's a whole different way of ministry. It's a whole different way of witnessing, but they're kind of a blank slate that have just never heard the story of Noah, or, or Jesus, and they don't know anything other than a Christmas time nativity scene that they've seen. Well, that is actually an amazing opportunity for Christians. If we will think of ourselves as missionaries, who are no longer living in a Christian era, and think differently. Well, then it's actually it's a huge opportunity. And I think it arises, I mean, we've been living this, I think we've been experiencing this, we see a ton of ministry, to atheists and agnostics and unbelievers who come in, in fact, we had somebody just this this last week that they just moved to Florida from a whole other place. One was from Dr. One was from Michigan, they moved to Florida. And all of a sudden they're interested because of the move and the transition and the stressor of that they are having twins. That's a whole nother stressor, right. Wow. And so we see these people that are now stepping into interest in God all again. And so we just have to be there to answer the questions and point them in the right directions.Dan Wheeler:
Pastor, you mentioned secular humanism. And when I hear that term, I think of man being able to solve all of his problems, and he's his own God. Do we need as a church to change our strategy as to how we're reaching these people?Brent Simpson:
Oh, absolutely. You know, in a Christian America, you could start with the Bible and say, the Bible says in a Christian America, you were really starting with a foundation that everybody agreed with, you know, that I was a sinner. You know, generally, you know, in the older generation generally, you knew you were a senator, you might have been running from God, but you know, it you know, there's no question. Now you're dealing with a generation that doesn't even know they're a senator or know there's an issue. So we You have to think of ourselves the way, if we were going to Thailand as missionaries, right, we would go there, we would learn the language of the people there, we would learn the culture of the people there, we would learn what the needs are of the people there. Well, here's what's happened, this culture has come to us. We're no longer Christian culture, we're secular culture. So now we have to minister in a way like a missionary speak in a language they understand, teach in a way they understand, find out what the real needs are, instead of saying, Oh, these are the needs, because it always has been, well, no, it's not anymore. Let's find out what these true needs are, and reach out and help people and, and so I think that the key there is thinking like a missionary.Terry Steen:
Yeah, that's great. And Pastor Brent, here you are pastoring, a large church. And you just mentioned the kind of growth you're seeing this year, the exponential growth coming into your church. So on the one hand, we have these, what we feel are the decline of Christianity. But yet on the other hand, we're seeing some churches that are really growing and really seeing and making a positive impact. And you're one of them. So as a senior pastor, how do you lead your congregation through this change? How do you bring them along and see the results you're seeing?Brent Simpson:
Well, Terry, what a what a great question. I would say, first of all, we can't look at change as an event. That's been the way it has looked at in the past. Change is so radical. Now change is not an event. It's not like I'm changing this thing. Change is a constant lifestyle, we are always changing, nothing is ever going to stay the same, at least in the world that we live in with the you know, the complexity of the internet. And just, I mean, just things are changing so quickly. The church has to be able to cling to the essentials, while holding loosely to the models, right? So the salvation story never actually changes. But the model that we bring it the way we do it, the way we do ministry is changing. I mean, my goodness, COVID COVID, push things, 10 years in advance overnight. Yeah. And so you're seeing now where people are watching online, we're a part of a podcast right now that, that 15 years ago, you probably wouldn't even thought of doing, but they're gonna have a great ministry. So the model is changing rapidly. And so churches frequently struggle with that, we mixed the model in the message. And we don't realize the message doesn't change. But the model constantly changes. Andy Stanley would say the model has a shelf life. And I would say that the model that at least for us has worked, which is different, because let me let me back up and say there was a model for a long time, that was a seeker sensitive churches, a lot of churches were seeker sensitive. We were never that way. But but whatever it worked for a lot of churches coming out of COVID, we're finding it seeker sensitive is kind of dead, it's not working. And an experiential church is the future experience, the very presence, the richness, the glory of God in our midst, in worship, I just talked to uh, I won't say his name, because some of our listeners would know him because he's well known, but an intellectual man, very, very intelligent doctor travels, the world teaching, very intelligent man, who has never been a person that's going to be on the spiritual side, just the intellectual side. And he was telling me that he goes to this church simply because the worship is so great. I think this presence driven church where God becomes the center of the church is the next at least wave of what God is doing with a model. Because the presence thing is powerful. Because when you're looking at this post Christian world, when you have an unbeliever, who doesn't understand Christianity, and you don't have the time to sit down and unpack, you know, the 12 essential truths and why we believe this and why we believe that they can experience something that's intriguing. That's, that's important. That's fresh for them. And they're like, What is this, there's something here that I have to come back and keep experiencing. That's part of the success that arise. I think people experience God's presence, and it draws them to a deeper relationship with the Lord.Terry Steen:
And don't you think that's why the Bible tells us you know, some people are afraid when they hear about a church that has the Holy Spirit in it that there's all this wacky, crazy stuff. But the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is there to draw the unbeliever. Yeah. And that's the key to it, that they have that feeling that sense of the Holy Spirit. That's what draws them.Brent Simpson:
Yeah, there's some I'm sure there's some wacky stuff that goes on in our Pentecostal churches without a doubt. But the churches that are anti Spirit moving are the ones that statistically are dying. Yeah, the ones that lean into the spirit but do it in a way that allows the spirit to flow without just being weird and wacky. Those are the ones that are successful. In fact, I often argue, you know, the almost universally understood that the birth of the church was asked to you know, there's very few that disagree with that but you acts to the church's birth. Why? Because the Holy Spirit shows up. Yeah. But if you research it in Acts one and prior in the end of end of Luke and the other gospels, what you find is that the they're still doing all the church stuff they're witnessing. They're working in praying for people, they're ministering to people. They're taking offerings, they're helping. They're studying the Word, in this case, the Old Testament generally, but they're studying, they're doing all those things that you would say a church should do. But they're not a church until the Holy Spirit shows up. Right? And so it's I fear that across America, sometimes we have everything the church is supposed to be without actually the Holy Spirit showing up and we're calling ourselves a church when I'm not sure it's a church. It's just a group of people doing Christian activities. Yeah,Terry Steen:
yeah. Now let's add the polarization of politics into the mix, which is something that's still somewhat unprecedented. How does that play into your ability to pastor?Brent Simpson:
Oh, well, let me let me answer that in two ways. First, let me directly answer it, I think the polarization of politics, you have to address them head on, you have to teach people how to think that's what we should be doing as ministers, teaching disciples. And so most people are being taught how to think by Fox News, or CNN or whoever, instead of from a Christian worldview. And so churches, in my opinion, cannot hide from political issues, we need to address them and address them head on with the gospel being the center of it, to teach people how to process all this that's coming at us. However, let me switch that and say in a post Christian America, all of a sudden, there's a void that's left from religion. So Religion was a dominant thing across America for a long time. Religion is now removed. And so with that void, the Void is never left empty. Human nature tells us always something comes in. I mean, Jesus said, If you cast out a demon, you better fill it with something because the demons will come back. Right. And so the void, always something fills it and what has filled it as we've become less religious and more post Christian, what's filled in his politics. Yeah. So now politics becomes the religion of America. It's the way future where the Church used to be the way that we're going to help our community politics becomes the way we're going to help our community where evangelism used to be in the church. Now we have to evangelism our way of politicking. And so, so politics really takes the place of the church and so many ways. Really, politicians take the place of the pastors. They're the new preachers, they're the ones we're quoting, right? Yeah, they're the new preachers, and we submit ourselves to them. And you see almost a reverence to politics, that used to be a reverence for Christ in the church. Right? Even when you if you watch what happens with the storming of the Capitol building, and just listen to the terminology that's used. It's like people are storming sacred ground. It's like a holy place. Yes, it's church terminology, that now in this post Christian world, the politics has taken the place of the church.Brian Roland:
Wow, that's amazing. Esther, people have asked me this before, and I have no answer for him, except that we're not going to be here. And that is, Why is America not mentioned in the biblical prophecies regarding the last days?Brent Simpson:
Well, that's a great question. I don't know that I'm the best one to answer that. I'm not a true theologian, my friend and mentor, Dr. Michael Brown would probably knock that answer out of the park. But I don't I don't know that any of the the nations that from 2000 years ago are really mentioned in any specific sense. In this context, I think the common answer that people would bring, and I don't disagree with it, is that America won't be here at that time. Or even a better answer maybe, is that we won't matter at that time. I've on my own podcast, I've talked at length about this post Christian issue and what's happening with America. And my argument is not that America doesn't exist, but America crumbles upon itself and doesn't matter any longer. So think like a country like like Ecuador, or, you know, someplace like that, that's a great country is nothing wrong with it, but it's not a world player. It's not a country that quote matters, I think America could very easily be in that place. And that's because we build a foundation on Christianity, that has been the foundation for a lot of your listeners probably don't know things like the middle class and property ownership and, and and hospitals, and education free for all like those are all Christian concepts. When we walk away from Christianity, the first generation will, will kind of own those and take them, the second generation after that really, third generation will then look at it and say, Why do we do these things? There's not a why behind where that comes from. So it's a it's a lack of foundation. And so when that happens, it starts to crumble upon itself, which we're seeing the beginning stages of right now, is you see it start crumbling upon itself, because the foundation is ripped out from under it. AndDan Wheeler:
early on. We talked about how we are moving away from Christianity as a nation, and that seems to be our theme. And you mentioned that At the churches that where the Holy Spirit has a primary role, those are the ones that really growing and the other ones, the dead churches are not growing at all. What do you think the biggest threat or the danger that evangelical churches have to watch out for? In today's world?Brent Simpson:
It's a great question. I think, um, I think there's a lack. And I would back up and say, I think the churches that are growing are the ones that are looking at the world, from the lens of being a missionary to their community, and aren't against the Holy Spirit moving, it's not that the Holy the churches that are growing are necessarily all charismatic or Pentecostal, right, but they're not against the flowing of the Holy Spirit. And they look at things as a missionary movement, the ones who are against the Holy Spirit, those are generally dying, the John MacArthur's of the world God bless him, those type of churches, they're passing away. Now, with that being said, I think there's a lot of serious challenges to the church world right now. We could talk about the scandals that are happening and how big they are, how that affects the younger generation. If you're established in your faith, it doesn't affect you nearly as much. Our listeners are probably mostly established in their faith, I would imagine, it's not going to affect you that Mark Driscoll did this or that some pastor did that. But if you take a new person who has a clean slate of Christianity, and they see this stuff, well, it creates a negative connotation. I think that's one, I think the lack of teaching a biblical worldview is enormous. Again, we hide from difficult subjects instead of addressing the difficult subjects. So we're allowing our people to be discipled, by Disney, and CNN and whatever else is out there, and their co workers instead of teaching them a biblical worldview. So therefore, when things happen, we don't know how to respond. But I think if there's the biggest one, I would say that we have done a extremely poor job of discipling people, part of the seeker sensitive movement, we started really, I hate to say putting on a show because God moved in it. But we lacked we lost the discipleship arm. I know why we stopped doing Sunday school because people weren't coming to Sunday school. But instead of getting rid of it, maybe we should have reinvented something else because we lost the cycling people. And we really saw that when COVID hit. And you saw that people just kind of went everywhere. I've said for a while now that since COVID, hit at least that when you go into the military when the bomb starts, you know, blowing up and rockets start shooting at you and, and rifles are aiming at you, you fall to your disciplines, right. And so when you're in boot camp, you learn how to change that rifle and follow orders and immediately react well in the Christian world. We didn't know how to react and so we watched COVID happened and and secular bomb started happening around us and political seasons mixed with the craziness of COVID. And people just didn't know how to react. And so Christians didn't react with Christ's love. We reacted the same way our political party reacted in general, because we were more discipled by them than by Christ. And sort of loving our neighbor and trying to help people we just kind of ran around like the chicken with his head cut off or, or the proverbial the, you know, the chicken in the or the what is it? The sky is falling that that story? Chicken, Chicken, Chicken Chicken, we kind of did that number instead of going oh my gosh, we this is the moment we were created for Christians were created for hard times. Right? Yeah. The glory days of the church, that most people would say the early church, the glory days of the church were the most difficult days. Christians were made for hard times. We don't run from them, we run into them. But we were never taught that we were never discipled that way. And so we we ran around like Chicken Little instead?Dan Wheeler:
Well, I'll tell you, this is a fascinating discussion. And Pastor, I've been attending your church since I moved down to Florida, and I've been impressed. Because you you talk about the experiences and people are coming to the Lord, but you have surrounded yourself with a lot of mature leaders in that church guys like Pastor Ken who've been Christians most of their lives. And I think that's so critical for churches, as you said, to follow up with that discipleship, we have to be taking people to the next level, we have to be ready for the meat, and not just the milk. And I see that you preach that and I've I've appreciated the stance that you've taken in talking about some real hot potato issues that most preachers are just avoiding. So thank you for that.Brent Simpson:
Yeah, Dan, for every church leader that's listening to this. I frequently find with my colleagues, they're scared of Hot Topic issues. Listen, we have grown tremendously this year. And this year, we've done a series on homosexuality in June to go with pride month. This year. We've just had somebody speaking about transgenderism just a couple of weeks ago, and this Sunday, Joe Dallas, who's maybe America's expert on LGBTQ issues coming out of that lifestyle himself and such we'll be speaking in our church. We don't hide from it, but yet our church is rapidly growing. Don't be scared of it. Teach it in a way loving way that's full of both grace and truth. And God blesses.Dan Wheeler:
Thank you so much faster. It's been such a joy to have you on these these past two podcast. We appreciate it.Brent Simpson:
Yeah, it's been such a joy to be with me. Thank you for being with you guys. Thank you so much for the opportunity.Dan Wheeler:
Thank you guys, I'll tell you there's there's so much to take away from what Pastor Bryant talked about today, reaching our world in a different way, looking at our country as we're missionaries, we really need to, you know, take a different approach and learn to speak people's language and learn to address the secular humanism. What were your takeaways?Terry Steen:
Yeah, for me, it was just to reinforce we've talked, you know, how important it is to finish strong. And when Pastor Brent was saying, we are made for tough times, we gotta get that in our hands because we're coming into tough times. And we can't back away and watch. We have to be proactive and aggressive.Dan Wheeler:
Right? You know, Brian, I think a lot of people are afraid of these times But Pastor brunch right it's this is our time to shine.Brian Roland:
What he said was we got to be bold, we got it we got to address issues head on and not be not be afraid of God's gonna bless our stance. Yeah, so that's what I got out of this today.Dan Wheeler:
And we have to learn not to get mad and angry when we hear the news. You know, I, I keep asking the Lord, Lord, give me that spirit of love. We have to do everything as Christ would in the spirit of love. He said, you know, love one another. We have to love our neighbors as ourselves and let our light shine that's going to draw people into the kingdom. Because who knows how long we have. Yeah, it's been a great, great podcast. Thank you for joining us so much. We appreciate your support and we'll be talking to you on our next edition of finish strong.John Matarazzo:
Thank you for listening to finish strong. For more information about finish strong and fearless faith. Check out their website, F faith.org. Make sure that you rate and review this podcast to help more people accomplish their God given purpose so that together we can finish strong